Building Character Profiles From Pets

I like to think of what Geordie Bear would be like if he were human. I know most pet owners think of this from time to time, but I wonder if anyone takes it to the extremes that I do.

In my defense, there’s very little to think about while I’m walking Geordie around the neighborhood. We take the same loops every day, and Geordie’s probably the only one who finds variation in these. Geordie doesn’t seem to mind the same circuits, pee-mailing with the same old characters in Mr. Rogers neighborhood. My not-yet-caffeinated mind wanders into a territory in-between dream and imagination, even while I’m bagging poopies and examining them for colitis.

Today I went beyond the usual characterization of Geordie Bear as British. He’s so very British, there’s no way he could be anything but British, but this is not because of his name.

He’s understated and well-behaved. I had nothing to do with this. I got him at the pound and he just came this way. He hardly ever barks, not even when other dogs bark at him. When he has to go to the bathroom, he walks around a little more than usual. When he wants me to wake up, he shakes his collar. When he gets scared, he sits a little closer to me. The only time he makes his desires perfectly clear is when I sit at my computer in the morning thinking I might actually get to drink a cup of coffee…then he yawn-yowls and jumps up and makes eye contact. The rest of the time he’s super polite. He doesn’t beg at the dinner table, but sits quietly off to the side. He won’t even eat food from the very accessible coffee table, not even when we leave the room. Not even when we leave salami and cheese. Now that’s polite.



Background: He’s not from Northern England, as his name would suggest. He doesn’t have a “Geordie” accent. He lives in Brighton but spent his formative years in London, although his mother moved him to Brighton before he reached ten. He can’t remember why they moved, but he never thinks of going back to London. He doesn’t really think of London as home. In fact, he doesn’t even like going there on business trips because he knows his colleagues will pick some posh restaurant and talk about culture. It’s not that he doesn’t fit in at posh restaurants, not that he can’t talk about culture too, but that he’d rather sit in the hotel room and take advantage of the sports channels and room service.

His mother died of lung cancer when he was in his early thirties. She was a working class woman who held various jobs, but she wasn’t around much and Geordie was often left to fend for himself. Never met his father. He doesn’t think he had a bad childhood, but he’s okay with spending much of his time alone—and he attributes that to his childhood.

Now he’s in his late fifties and works at a big company in the media sector, although his heart isn’t there. Still, the pay is good. He doesn’t mind it too much. He gets on well with others, though he doesn’t make friends at work. If he did, he’d have to take sides sometimes and that would be uncomfortable. He’s looking forward to retirement.

Hobbies: He goes to the beach sometimes to walk around—this is his primary form of exercise. This doesn’t do much for his beer belly, though he tells himself the walk is for his health. In truth, he likes to watch the people, especially the happy families.

He watches “football” and has favorite teams. He’s a bloke, what can he say. Since I don’t know much about sports, I’ll just say Geordie likes to go to a certain pub mostly frequented by the lower middle class (he never eats the food, but never disparages it either) and sits quietly to watch the big games, which he considers monumental events worth sharing with others. The others cheer and get rowdy when the local sports team fares well against the non-local sports team, but he’s more objective in his sports team assessments. He favors certain teams from a more global perspective and keeps up with the players and the minutiae of plays and such, but never does he share these insights with others unless asked. He smiles and sometimes gives a shout—only to fit in—and takes a drink of his beer. It’s not that he’s above these blokes, not at all. He’s really having a good time. He likes their company and enthusiasm. He just doesn’t have a need to root for the local team.

He also watches tennis, golf, and the Tour de France. He fell off his bicycle when he was young, and never got back on it. But he admires cyclists, especially since he knows the dangers.

I’ve made Geordie sound like a sports nut, but his life is not sports. He used to play a bit as a lad, but that’s not it either. He just finds it a nice escape, the same way others like to build model airplanes or read novels. A lot of his colleagues don’t know how much he keeps up with his teams, because he’s not one to bring up subjects that interest him. He lets others bring up subjects and he tries to be a good listener. He reads the newspaper every day, so he knows what’s going on, though he doesn’t care that much about politics.

Fishing. Geordie loves to go fishing, but hardly ever does. He always eats the fish he catches because he doesn’t like the idea of harming fish for no reason. He also likes the idea of hunting, but has never done it. He’d eat whatever he caught, if he hunted. But guns scare him. So noisy.

He likes music, but isn’t musical himself. He listens to popular music, but doesn’t go to concerts. He likes Simon and Garkfunel. Bob Dylan, the earlier stuff. He doesn’t like a lot of hard rock or clanging and bashing around. James Taylor, for sure.

Love life: He lives alone in an apartment that could use a woman’s touch. He’s not sloppy, for a bloke, but he doesn’t know what kind of artwork to put where, doesn’t know what kind of curtains to buy, etc. He’d love to have a romantic relationship, but he’s never been terribly attractive to the opposite sex. People say it’s because he’s too nice. What kind of sense does that make?

It’s true that he’s hard to get to know. He has little ticks and expressions that only an intimate friend or lover would be able to interpret. But once you get to know him, you’ll find him morally outstanding. He’d never cheat if he had a wife. He’d be so good to her. He wouldn’t behave the way he knows his colleagues do.

He knows he’s not supposed to say this, and he never would out loud, but he wants a traditional sort of wife and he’d be happy to take care of her. He wants a wife who appreciates it when he mows the lawn, kills spiders, fixes the garbage disposal. He’d certainly appreciate a wife who cooked for him, and he’d thank her every time. He’s kind of romantic, but romance for him would mean sometimes taking home a nice bouquet of flowers from the supermarket for no reason at all. He wants a no-nonsense woman who will prove that she’s not after his money. (He knows what it means to be poor, but now has a good job and has amassed a decent nest egg, prudently invested.) He’s been burned many times. He’s not bitter or stingy, just careful.

He wants true love. Yeah, he likes long walks on the beach. So he’s a little boring and cliché. He wants someone who appreciates boring, which he’d prefer to call “peaceful domesticity.”

Pet peeves: People who don’t show up on time. People who name drop to make themselves seem smart or well-connected. People who talk loudly or too much. People who gossip. People who hold extreme political views. People who interrupt. People who talk on their cell phones while checking out at the grocery store. But most of all, people who have everything in life and throw it all away by doing something stupid.

It occurred to me that pets can be used as jumping off points to create a detailed character profile from which an entire short story could be built. I don’t know if I plan on doing this, but it’s an interesting idea. In any case, it was a fun writing prompt.